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The past four decades have witnessed an explosion of research into ethnic conflict. The overarching question addressed in the voluminous and still growing literature is this: Under what cultural, social, economic, political, and international conditions is ethnic conflict or peace more likely? Limiting my survey to the onset of ethnic war, I divide the literature into four waves and critically examine its theoretical and empirical progress. I contend that the field has indeed made impressive progress, both theoretically and empirically. Theoretically, the field has moved well beyond the unproductive debate of the three paradigms (i.e., primordialism, instrumentalism, and constructivism), and there is an emerging consensus that we need to draw valid elements from all three paradigms and beyond. In addition, neo-institutionalism has (re-)emerged as a major approach in the field. Empirically, powered by increasingly sophisticated methods and technologies such as the Geography Information System (GIS) and the availability of more and better datasets, inquiries into ethnic conflict have not only ventured into exciting new territories but also gained deeper and fine-grained knowledge into the causes of ethnic war. I then highlight several recent studies that bring out impressive theoretical and empirical syntheses that may well portend better things to come. Finally, I identify several venues for further scientific progress, including tighter coupling between theorization and empirical hypotheses, getting the basics of methods right, gathering more fine-grained data that measure the level of ethnic politics, bringing together ethnic politics and other key topics in the wide social sciences, and forecasting the risk of ethnic war based on computational social sciences.

Article

Ethnic cleavages are present in many elections across the continent, and scholars frequently view ethnic mobilization as the default way in which politicians appeal to African voters. Ethnic electoral patterns already emerged in many countries during the first mass elections around the time of independence and they continue to be visible to this day. The prevalence of ethnic politics has been commonly seen as a result of limited ideological and programmatic debates in African elections and the centrality of ethnic networks in voters’ access to scarce resources. Yet, early-21st-century scholarship increasingly reveals the varied degrees in which ethnicity plays a role in African political contests, raising the question of when do politicians engage in alternative forms of electoral mobilization? And when are voters inclined to vote for candidates outside their ethnic group? Emerging scholarship suggests that it is easier for politicians to pursue programmatic and populist campaigns that do not cater to specific ethnic groups in cities rather than in rural areas where politicians rarely avoid clientelist strategies. Other research also suggests that the nature of social organization and the composition of rural areas can determine whether clientelist strategies are organized along ethnic lines or not.

Article

Since its maiden coup in 1978, which initiated both an era of recurrent coup activity and a regime type dubbed “Mauritania of the Colonels,” the Mauritanian military, once an unassuming, apolitical institution, has been in power either directly or through a “civilianized” military regime. Since its creation in the early 1990s, the Battalion for Presidential Security (BASEP) has played a prominent role in the workings of Mauritania of the Colonels. Only during a 17-month interlude under a civilian democratically elected president, following a bungled transition marked by the underhanded interference of some military officers, did the military formally leave power—and then only formally. Whether they tried to meet them in earnest or not, the challenges of withdrawing the military from the political arena and democratizing the country have dogged all military heads of state. The challenges were complicated by Mauritania’s intractable ethnocultural rivalries subsumed under the “national question” and the related “human rights deficit.” After Colonel Ould Taya, whose lengthy and repressive regime had the deepest impact on the country and the national question in particular, the challenges were even harder for his successors to face. The latest transfer of power between one retired general and another, both of whom had conspired to overthrow Mauritania’s only democratically elected civilian president, is evidence that, as major players, Mauritania’s military leaders are well on their way to institutionalizing the Mauritania of the Colonels they assiduously fashioned for more than 40 years.

Article

European colonialism in Africa was brief, lasting less than a century for most of the continent. Nevertheless, scholars have enumerated myriad long-term political effects of this brief period of colonial rule. First, Europeans determined the number, size, and shape of African states through their partition of the continent, with contemporary implications for state viability, strength, and legitimacy. Second, colonial rule influenced the nature of ethnic boundaries and their salience for politics through the use of indirect rule, language and labor policies, and the location of internal administrative boundaries. Third, colonial rule significantly shaped the nature of postcolonial state-society relations by divorcing the state from civil society during the colonial era and by engendering deep mistrust of the state as a benevolent actor. Fourth, many colonial institutions were preserved at independence, including the marriage of state institutions and customary rule, with deleterious effects. Fifth, differential colonial investments across communities and regions generated significant inequality, with continued political implications in the 21st century. The identification of these long-term effects has largely resulted from empirical comparisons across different forms of colonial rule, especially comparing territories administered by different colonial powers. Future research should move beyond this blunt approach, instead pursuing more disaggregated and nuanced measures of both colonial rule and its political legacies, as well as more scholarship on the long-term interaction between colonial and indigenous political institutions.

Article

Indigenous peoples have become important social and political actors in contemporary Latin America. The politicization of ethnic identities in the region has divided analysts into those who view it as a threat to democratic stability versus those who welcome it as an opportunity to improve the quality of democracy. Throughout much of Latin America’s history, Indigenous peoples’ demands have been oppressed, ignored, and silenced. Latin American states did not just exclude Indigenous peoples’ interests; they were built in opposition to or even against them. The shift to democracy in the 1980s presented Indigenous groups with a dilemma: to participate in elections and submit themselves to the rules of a largely alien political system that had long served as an instrument of their domination or seek a measure of representation through social movements while putting pressure on the political system from the outside. In a handful of countries, most notably Bolivia and Ecuador, Indigenous movements have successfully overcome this tension by forming their own political parties and contesting elections on their own terms. The emergence of Indigenous peoples’ movements and parties has opened up new spaces for collective action and transformed the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the state. Indigenous movements have reinvigorated Latin America’s democracies. The political exclusion of Indigenous peoples, especially in countries with substantial Indigenous populations, has undoubtedly contributed to the weakness of party systems and the lack of accountability, representation, and responsiveness of democracies in the region. In Bolivia, the election of the country’s first Indigenous president, Evo Morales (2006–present) of the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, has resulted in new forms of political participation that are, at least in part, inspired by Indigenous traditions. A principal consequence of the broadening of the democratic process is that Indigenous activists are no longer forced to choose between party politics and social movements. Instead, participatory mechanisms allow civil society actors and their organizations to increasingly become a part of the state. New forms of civil society participation such as Indigenous self-rule broaden and deepen democracy by making it more inclusive and government more responsive and representative. Indigenous political representation is democratizing democracy in the region by pushing the limits of representative democracy in some of the most challenging socio-economic and institutional environments.

Article

The symbolic politics theory of ethnic war starts from the insight that most political behavior is not rational but intuitive, driven by “symbolic predispositions” such as ideological beliefs, normative values, and prejudice. The way leaders lead is by using rhetoric not to appeal rationally to followers’ interests but to appeal emotionally to their symbolic predispositions. According to symbolic politics theory, the path to ethnic conflict begins with group narratives that are hostile to another group. These narratives help to generate hostile and prejudiced symbolic predispositions. If group members perceive a social threat, such as to their group identity or status, they become more likely to join mass movements agitating for a politics of redistribution—discriminating in favor of their own group at the expense of rival groups. If people feel physically threatened, they become more likely to support a politics of protection leading to violent ethnic conflict. These popular attitudes and moods are turned into social movements or military mobilization if aggressive leaders emerge, framing political issues in terms of these threats, and if those leaders are both credible and supported by effective organizations. A series of case studies has demonstrated that this process—from narratives to prejudice and threat perceptions, harnessed by leadership and organization—is what occurred in ten ethnic civil wars, including the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Israel-Palestine, and the Philippines. The theory also explains less violent cases such as Gandhi’s nationalist movement in India. This theory is hypothesized to apply to international war, as the politics of national identity is similar to the politics of ethnic identity. The theory also suggests a way of reconciling realist, liberal, and constructivist accounts of international relations through political psychology and a scientific realist ontology.

Article

In the 200 years since Ecuador gained independence from Spain in 1822, it has experienced many of the social problems that have plagued other Latin American countries. Ecuador experienced a high degree of political instability during the 19th century, and a series of extra-constitutional and military governments marked much of the 20th century. At the dawn of the 21st century, Ecuador followed the rest of Latin America’s “pink tide,” which introduced progressive governments that sought to address long-standing problems of poverty and inequality. The country has endured numerous coups, caudillo and populist leaders, and forms of government ranging through conservative, liberal, populist, military, and civilian “democracy.” The diversity in political institutions led the political scientist John Martz to observe that Ecuador, although little studied among scholars of Latin American issues, “serves as a microcosm for a wide variety of problems, questions, and issues relevant to various of the other Latin American countries.” Despite a high degree of political instability, the country is also home to very strong popular movements that opened up space for the election of the left-wing government of Rafael Correa in 2006. His administration resulted in a remarkable shift from a period of extreme instability to political stability, with notable gains in economic growth and corresponding drops in poverty and inequality. Scholarly research on Ecuador has often reflected the country’s current political environment. In the 1950s, in the midst of the emergence of populist politics, researchers defined the country’s landscape in terms of its personalist leadership, particularly as represented by the perennial leader José María Velasco Ibarra. In 1972, General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara led a military coup that removed Velasco Ibarra from office. In the midst of a petroleum boom, he established a nationalist regime similar to that of Juan Velasco Alvarado in neighboring Peru. A massive Indigenous uprising two decades later introduced a generation of studies that examined ethnonationalist-based social movements. Those movements led to Correa’s election in the midst of a broader turn to the left in Latin America, which once again influenced the direction of investigations.

Article

Erin K. Jenne and Milos Popovic

In their seminal study “Resort to Arms,” Small and Singer (1982) defined a civil war as “any armed conflict that involves (a) military action internal to the metropole, (b) the active participation of the national government, and (c) effective resistance by both sides.” Internationalized civil wars constitute a newer classification, denoting a conflict involving organized violence on two or more sides within a sovereign state, in which foreign elements play a role in instigating, prolonging, or exacerbating the struggle. Small and Singer defined civil war as one in which a “system member” intervenes into a substate conflict involving organized violence. Although Singer and Small conceived “system members” narrowly as external sovereign states engaged in military intervention into the civil war in question, the definition has since been expanded by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) and Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) to include other foreign actors—such as nonstate or private actors, diasporas, IOs, corporations, or cross-border kin groups—any of which can intervene to intensify a domestic civil conflict. From superpower interventions during the Cold War to more recent conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, internationalized civil wars have garnered increasing scholarly attention, primarily because they tend to be far bloodier and more protracted than noninternationalized civil wars. How to end such wars is a problem long bedeviling the international community. Civil wars are already more difficult to end than interstate wars partly because there are more players to satisfy in civil war settings, with multiple conflict parties coexisting on a single territory, and multiple factions within each conflict party—each constituting a “veto player” that might plausibly spoil a peace agreement should the agreement not satisfy their needs. This problem is exacerbated by an order of magnitude when a civil war becomes internationalized. When outside actors get involved in a civil war, the number of veto players rises correspondingly to include not only domestic players and internal factions, but also the involved external players, which may include foreign governments, diaspora groups, foreign fighters, and/or transnational social networks. Managing or ending internationalized civil wars is thus a highly complicated balancing act requiring attention not just to internal, but also to external veto players represented by all involved parties both inside and outside the conflict state. The traditional methods of conflict management involve electoral engineering, power-sharing arrangements, or other peace deals that seek to satisfy the aspirations of involved internal parties, while ensuring that the peace deal is “self-enforcing.” This means that it will hold up even in the absence of outside pressure. In internationalized civil wars, however, conflict managers must also satisfy involved outside actors or otherwise neutralize external conflict processes. There are multiple methods for doing this, ranging from effective border control in cases of conflict spillover to decomposing internationalized conflicts into civil and international conflicts, which are solved separately, to outright peace enforcement involving international security guarantees.

Article

Lacking sovereignty, a well-developed theology of politics, and a central organizing mechanism, the Jewish political experience is unique among the three Abrahamic faiths. Apart from research on the political content implicit in Jewish scriptures, there has been little scholarship on what Jews do when they engage in political action. Using a contextual framework, this article examines the politics of Jews by reviewing both single-country studies and the few extant cross-national analyses. In considering why Jewish political behavior differs from one place to another, political process theory and Medding’s theory of Jewish interests guide the analysis. Medding argued that Jewish politics is primarily a response to threats perceived in the political environment. The ability of Jewish communities to resist such threats depends largely on the rules governing the political environment, the political opportunity structure. Where Jews are a majority and control the rules, as in the state of Israel, they have adopted a regime that prioritizes the Jewish character of the state against perceived threats from the country’s Arab citizens. Where Jews are a minority, as in the United States, their ability to control the political environment is limited. However, the political rules of the game embodied in the U.S. Constitution have levelled the playing field to the advantage of religious minorities like Jews. Specifically, by rejecting “blood and soil” citizenship and denying the religious character of the state, those rules provide Jews and other minorities a valuable resource and access to sympathetic allies in the political system. Hence American Jews have been able to counter what they perceive as the major threat to their political interests—a replacement of the secular state by a confessional regime. Focusing on threats, the political opportunity structure, and political context helps to anchor Jewish political studies in research on ethnic political cohesion and to bring such research into the scholarly mainstream.

Article

At first sight, relations between politics and the military in Macedonia, one of the ex-Yugoslav republics that gained independence in 1991, seem to resemble the typical evolution of civil–military relations in other countries in transition. Yet, history in Macedonia is far from straightforward and simple. First, the country’s appearance on the world scene was unique: it was practically a demilitarized state with no army! Apart from that, amid the Yugoslav imbroglio it was known as an “oasis of peace.” Only 10 years later, in 2001, Macedonia found itself on the verge of an ethnic conflict, with a powerless (Macedonian-dominated) military that confronted apparently well-organized Albanian paramilitary forces. In March 2020, Macedonia became NATO’s 30th member state. Yet, the dilemma that affects civil–military relations at both the political-military and societal-military levels has not gone away. Theoretically and practically, any meaningful analysis requires detection of the troublesome aspects of each side of the triangle: state/politics/military/society/ethnicity. Though the society–state dimension is far from inconsiderable, on methodological grounds the analysis that follows is restricted to the other two dimensions. NATO membership for a transitional country usually presupposes a successful democratic transition, internal stability, and societal consensus over key national values and interests. Macedonia’s case belies that assumption. The Macedonian military has been practically invisible in internal politics, while it has been widely cited as a key asset for bringing the country closer to NATO by direct involvement in military interventions launched by the United States or NATO, starting with Afghanistan and Iraq and extending to the plans for involvement in Mali’s affairs. Behind the façade, there is silent internal strife within the ranks along political and ethnic lines (i.e., the same lines that sharply divide the state and society, challenging the country’s internal cohesion and democratic prospects). In addition, the military has to make do with scant essential resources, while the military officers’ self-respect is severely diminished by the low societal rewards for their profession. Macedonia’s democratic transition is far from complete, since the country is going through a deep internal crisis related to its societal/security dilemma, and the military is just one of the institutions that suffer because of ethnic competition and unprincipled power-sharing bargaining.

Article

Latin America ranks highest in the world in markers of social and economic inequality, as well as in the negative effects of inequality on other realms of social life, such as access to basic services, political power, and, in many countries, unfair treatment by police and the justice system. Yet in Latin America it is not possible to talk about racism, ethnic-racial discrimination, and inequality without taking into consideration the hegemonic narratives of mestizaje and racial democracy that shape the way many Latin American nations think about themselves today. Can a region characterized by extreme levels of social inequality also be ethnically and racially democratic? The pattern of ethnic and racial relations in Latin America is marked by discrimination, but at the same time, it creates mechanisms that prevent individuals from recognizing the existence of discrimination against themselves. This reality carries several complications for census-taking and other forms of statistical data collection intended to measure ethnic-racial inequality. Because the main paradigms of analysis of social inequality prioritize economics and class, they have directly or indirectly strengthened the discourse that in Latin America, there is no racism. Certainly, the future of research on race relations and inequality in Latin America will benefit from new demographic data and public opinion surveys, carried out since the turn of the century, which include the identification of indigenous and Afro-descendant people. This trend may advance the production of studies grounded in more robust empirical evidence of ethnic-racial asymmetry.

Article

Politicians mobilize people to vote by devising messages and imparting them to those people. Many studies examine African electioneering through a framework that distinguishes between programmatic, clientelist and charismatic appeals. Some, but not all, African politicians appeal to people by adopting particular policy positions, the strict sense of “programmatic appeals.” However, almost all solicit peoples’ support by stressing their sincere intentions and their abilities to pursue uncontroversial aspects of public policy, otherwise known as “valence appeals.” Parties’ historic records and their locations in government or opposition affect which issues they can claim to own and which they stress in their campaigns. While appeals over public policy are commonplace in African electoral politics, so too is clientelism. Many politicians give voters gifts, in the form of favorable distributions of public service delivery, in-kind goods, and cash. However, few of these gifts constitute contingent exchanges of goods for votes. Instead, political largesse is used to flatter, to impress and to convince voters of politicians’ virtue. In this respect, public policy and clientelism frequently appear in African elections side-by-side. “Political appeals” is employed by many as an organizing concept which orders the study of political messages. It sheds light on how electoral politics affects public policy. However, it also obscures. A separate canon of work studies political discourses in sub-Saharan Africa. One of the most studied subjects in this strain of the literature is populism. African populisms have been conceived of by some as discourses that unite disparate groups against an elite, and as an electoral strategy that draws together particular constituencies by others. Whichever definition one takes, African populists are rare. Only a handful have been identified. Nationalists are much more common in sub-Saharan Africa. Politicians and parties have constructed national missions that act as master discourses, which subsume and order all manner of political issues. Some politicians that employ nationalist discourses stress their liberation credentials as qualifications to govern and delegitimize opponents who did not participate in the struggle. National revolutions or liberations are portrayed as ongoing projects with indefinite points of completion which give nationalism its regenerative qualities. Other nationalisms stress threats from rival groups, whether strangers within the nation’s borders, or nefarious forces abroad. Likewise, ethnic discourses are commonplace in sub-Saharan Africa, but their rhetorical contents differ. Some valorize an ethnic people. Other express an ethnic group’s victimhood, or grievances, or fear of rival group threats. Equally, the goals that they espouse differ. Some propose compensation, others reconciliation, others still the capture of the central state, the devolution of state power, or the creation of a separate state of their own. Equally, they are contested and used by a variety of actors. Ethnicities are created from both above and below. They are used not only to mobilize people for mass actions to but make normative claims on politicians. More broadly, politicians strive to develop conceptions of political morality. They present themselves as moral leaders and recharacterize various political issues as questions of morality or moral character. Putting these common discursive frames aside, African politicians employ any number of esoteric discursive frames which are not found elsewhere. Grand discourses aside, African politicians employ numerous rhetorical and symbolic techniques to suggest, reframe, perform and charm. While messages win people’s support, those messages must be imparted, through mass media or face-to-face contact. Political parties mobilize enormous resources to expose people to their messages on the ground. The ground campaign has received little attention to date, but a scattering of studies show that parties strive to gain local presence. Some establish branches and others recruit local actors. They rely on these local actors to organize their ground campaigns and employ a variety of targeting strategies.

Article

Social capital is a slippery concept that signifies different things for different authors, and its uses are not always consistent. Despite this lack of consensus, most scholars agree on its basic idea: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Participation or membership in social networks and voluntary organizations creates norms and values such as trust, cooperation, and reciprocity that lead to productive state, institutional performance, and democratic communities. Social interactions and connections expand access to information and political ideas, nurture active citizens, stimulate individual participation in politics, collective decision-making, and policy formulation, which increase governmental accountability. In recent years, civil society actors in Africa have been emboldened to build social capital in response to restrictions and attacks on civil and political liberties, creeping authoritarianism, constitutional manipulations, and lack of governmental accountability. However, there are formidable challenges to generating social capital due to the character of civil society, its structural weaknesses and internal contradictions, socio-cultural factors, and limitations from the state.

Article

Since the early 1990s, most African countries have experimented with multiparty elections, but the building and institutionalization of political parties has proven difficult. In many countries, parties—including those holding power—are fluid, volatile, and lack grassroots structures. In others, the party landscape remains surprisingly similar to Van de Walle’s assessment: “[consisting] of a dominant presidential party surrounded by a large number of small, highly volatile parties.” As Van de Walle points out, ruling parties—including the ex-single parties that continue to rule in many of Africa’s hybrid regimes—have advantages that mean that elections are not fought on a level playing field. Ruling parties may use repression against challengers, or they may manipulate voter registration, constituency redistricting, and other aspects of electoral administration. Incumbents can also take advantage of state resources, and a decline in patronage resources has been a powerful driver of electoral turnover in regions. But differences in election competitiveness in Africa are not only a function of repression, manipulation, or access to patronage. Differences in both ruling party and opposition party organizations have independent effects on parties’ ability to win elections, on the loyalty of mass constituencies, and on the conduct of election campaigns. New scholarship has started to take these differences in party organization seriously, and this will enrich our understanding of how voters in sub-Saharan Africa navigate political choice. Research on parties and party systems highlights the degree to which these factors differ across countries and over time, complicating standard narratives that often privilege clientelism and ethnicity as the primary—and largely uniform—influences on voter behavior and government accountability on the continent.

Article

During the anticolonial struggle and immediately after independence, African political leaders were preoccupied with the creation of a “nation-state.” As a result, many of postcolonial African leaders not only promoted national unity but also instituted centralized governance. Unity and centralization were considered important antidotes to the challenges of consolidating postcolonial states, which by and large were created by the partitioning of the continent by colonial powers. As a result, many of the postcolonial leaders were hostile to federalism in general and power-sharing in particular. This explains why many of the federal arrangements, which were created by departing colonial powers, were dismantled within the first few years after independence. In contrast to the earlier periods, the 1990s could be regarded as a turning point for federalism and devolution of power in the continent. Among African states, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and South Africa could be considered fully fledged federations, which have constitutionally devolved power to different tiers of governments. There is also an ongoing attempt to establish a federal system in war-torn Somalia. Some argue that, although federalism does not have a stellar record in postcolonial Africa, it is possible to contend that in the foreseeable future the importance of federalism will grow in the continent given the challenges that many African countries face in the management of their ethnolinguistic diversity. This is evidenced by the increasing application of the federalist principles of decentralization by several African countries.

Article

The renewed relevance of “autochthony” and similar notions of belonging in many parts of Africa is symptomatic of the confusing changes on the continent since the “post-Cold War moment.” Africa is certainly not exceptional in this respect. The “new world order,” so triumphantly announced by President George H. W. Bush in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the apparent victory of capitalism turned out to be marked by intensifying global flows, as expected, but also by an increasing obsession with belonging all over the globe, which was less expected. Yet, it may be important to emphasize as well that this upsurge of struggles over local belonging took on special aspects in Africa. The notion of autochthony has its own history on the continent, going back to the impact of colonialism, but building on older distinctions. However, it always sat uneasily with what many historians and anthropologists see as characteristic for African social formations: a heavy emphasis on mobility and inclusion of people: wealth in people. Since the last decades of the 20th century, there seems to be an increasing closure of local communities in many parts of the continent: a growing emphasis on exclusion rather than inclusion of newcomers, immigrants, or “strangers.” After a brief sketch of the history of autochthony on the continent, also in relation to parallel notions like ethnicity and indigeneity, the focus is placed on the factors behind such a tendency toward closure: increasing land scarcity, and especially the changing global context since 1990. In many parts of the continent, the neo-liberal twin of democratization and decentralization had the effect that the feeling of belonging to the village became of crucial importance again, as well for people who had already lived for generations in the cities. The implications of such a growing preoccupation with autochthony and local belonging for national citizenship and notions on civil society are highly variable and depend on historical context. However, one recurrent trait is the paradox between a promise of basic security (how can one belong more than if one is rooted in the soil?) and a practice of deep uncertainty. The receding quality of these claims to belong—autochthony as a basic denial of history, which always implies movement—allows that they always can be contested: One’s autochthony can always be unmasked as “fake,” with someone else belonging more. Autochthony can be institutionalized in various forms and to various degrees, but its basic uncertainty gives it a violent potential.

Article

Land-related disputes and land conflicts are sometimes politicized in elections in African countries, but this is usually not the case. Usually, land-related conflict is highly localized, managed at the micro-political level by neo-customary authorities, and not connected to electoral competition. Why do land conflicts sometimes become entangled in electoral politics, and sometimes “scale up” to become divisive issues in regional and national elections? A key determinant of why and how land disputes become politicized is the nature of the underlying land tenure regime, which varies across space (often by subnational district) within African countries. Under the neo-customary land tenure regimes that prevail in most regions of smallholder agriculture in most African countries, land disputes tend to be “bottled up” in neo-customary land-management processes at the local level. Under the statist land tenure regimes that exist in some districts of many African countries, government agents and officials are directly involved in land allocation and directly implicated in dispute resolution. Under “statist” land tenure institutions, the politicization of land conflict, especially around elections, becomes more likely. Land tenure institutions in African countries define landholders’ relations to each other, the state, and markets. Understanding these institutions, including how they come under pressure and change, goes far in explaining how and where land rights become politicized.

Article

Political regulation of ethnicity has been a core dimension of state-building in Africa, and a set of different macro-political strategies was applied in African postcolonial states to deal with ethnic heterogeneity. One set of strategies consisted in attempts to completely eliminate political manifestations of ethnicity, violently through genocide (Rwanda, 1994) or mass expulsions of ethnic minorities (Uganda, 1973), consensually through secession of autonomous provinces (Eritrea, 1993; South Sudan, 2005), through legal instruments that ban the political expression of ethnic identity such as party bans, or via coercive variants of assimilation (Rwanda, 2001). An opposing option promoted the formal recognition of ethnicity through consociationalism (Burundi, 2005), ethnic federalism (Ethiopia, 1995), ethnic minority rights (Mauritius), or hegemonic control (apartheid South Africa). Many African countries have instead opted for an informal accommodation of ethnic identity in politics, which combines the pursuit of civic nationalism and ethnic party bans with a de facto recognition of ethnic group rights through informal power-sharing, centripetal institutions, or variants of federalism which shift resources and competencies to subnational levels. The choice of strategies is, however, constrained by how interethnic relations have been shaped in the process of postcolonial state-building. Both strategies of elimination and of formal recognition are applied in ranked societies where one racial or ethnic group managed to take control of the state and in which class corresponded with ethnic affiliation. South Africa, which also belonged to this group, seems to be the only country where a liberal model of civic nation is pursued along with a strong recognition of the country’s diversity in the political and constitutional architecture.

Article

Several African countries are currently engaged in the constitution-making process. In Africa, constitution-making usually takes three phases. The first phase took place at independence in the 1960s and was typically led by the colonial power. Constitution-making during this phase was part of the decolonization process. In the case of former British colonies, the independence constitution was British legislation which constituted the independent state. The second phase was from independence to 1989. During this phase, constitution amendments were made to the independence constitutions designed to concentrate power in the presidency. This was the era of authoritarian governments in Africa which culminated into one-party state systems of governance. The third phase, which runs from 1989 to the present, is associated with the worldwide wave of democratization. During this period, constitution-making has centered on rebuilding the political community as well as structures that had been distorted by political manipulation and violence during the era of authoritarian rule. This third phase is also marked by promoting the participation of citizens in the affairs of their own countries and the accountability of governments. A well-designed constitution can promote these objectives. In addition, inclusiveness and peaceful settlement of conflicts can be seen as a vehicle for national dialogue, good governance, and the consolidation of peace.

Article

Mario Roberto Morales

Guatemala is one of the most complicated countries in the Latin American region, especially because of the interethnic dimensions of its historical processes. Its history goes back 35,000 years, when the territory was first populated. Thereafter, it saw the development of the most advanced culture in the Americas: The Maya civilization. No less interesting is its colonial history. The years of the war of conquest and the centuries of colonial rule by the Spaniards are the very matrix in which all of the complicated ethnic differences among its peoples originated. These differences give an ethnic face to the economic, political, social, and cultural powers and events in everyday life. The name Criollos (Creole) was given to the sons and grandsons of Spaniards born in the Americas. The formation of a Creole or Criollo motherland in the hearts and minds of the descendants of the conquistadors quickly developed because of the feudal land ownership imposed by the invaders, which provided the Criollos with a love of private property. Land ownership disputes among the Criollo elites gave way to wars that led to a failed attempt at Central American unity by liberals against the conservative forces representing the interests of the Catholic Church in matters of state. In the end, a liberal “modernity” was imposed, but this modernity contained a basic contradiction that remains alive to this day: A feudal land tenure as the basis of a supposed democratic liberal state that, oddly enough, often took the form of military dictatorships. The impossibility of modernity characterizes the Guatemalan 20th century. An authoritarian state and army represented the oligarchic Criollo power throughout the first four decades of that century until a civic and military movement overthrew the dictator in charge, General Jorge Ubico. Democracy was established, thus modernizing the state and all public affairs, and the foundations of a “democratic Capitalism” (as President Jacobo Arbenz called it in his inauguration speech) were laid through a land reform affecting only public lands and buying private non-cultivated properties at a fair market price. In the midst of the Cold War, this meant defiance against the U.S. government. In 1954, the CIA, the local oligarchy, the Catholic Church hierarchy, and a faction of the National Army, perpetrated a coup d’état that ended Guatemala’s path toward real economic, political, and cultural modernity. The country went back to where it was: Oligarchic and military rule and the overexploitation of the landless campesino workforce, especially in the indigenous communities of Maya ascent. In the early 1960s Guatemalans experienced the emergence of a guerrilla socialist movement inspired by the Cuban revolution that unleashed a war that lasted 36 years until peace accords were signed in 1996 by a militarily defeated guerrilla force and a triumphant National Army. This “peace” was the local requisite imposed by the corporate transnational capital on the local oligarchy to install a neoliberal regime in the country. Immediately after the peace accords were signed, the oligarchic government of Álvaro Arzú began to privatize public assets like the electric and telephone companies. The effect on the popular sectors and the middle class was devastating. The state abandoned its development plans, and this responsibility was shifted to international funding agencies. The resultant non-governmental organizations (NGOs) began to call themselves “civil society” and still do today. This simulacrum of a civil society was composed by well-funded groups of ex–left-wing militants and sympathizers that soon embraced and advanced issues related to multiculturalism, following the international agenda of the funding agencies. Class struggle was totally abandoned by these politically correct NGOs, which soon became “new social movements.” Public powers were absorbed by illegal private powers now in association with drug trafficking and many other forms of organized crime. Neoliberalism became the national economic paradigm. And when public corruption was incontrollable, the United States intervened, waging a “struggle against corruption and impunity” that led to a “color revolution” and a soft coup d’état in 2015.